We really do learn from everything, but as unschoolers, even if the learners and their parents know that there's learning going on, it's often hard for outsiders to see, or it's something non-academic enough to not impress most school-minded people. Sometimes, though, the learning that's happening looks enough like what learning is "supposed" to look like, that even the stodgiest person can see it.
I want to share some recent learning going on in this house of the latter sort. Not because I think it's more valuable than the non-visible learning, but because I love when things people often scorn (like TV) lead to things people usually hold in high standing (like learning languages).
My sister and I are obsessed with the TV show Supernatural. What's it about, you ask? The short TvTropes description: "two hot, dysfunctional brothers drive around the country fighting monsters, later accompanied by a hot male angel, with a revolving door of hot recurring stars/guest stars. They Fight Monsters." (and I feel a strong urge right now to assure you that it's better than it sounds). There's an overarching plot that stretches through the entire show, not just each individual season, which culminates in season 5 with the biblical apocalypse (that's the last season we've seen, since season 6 is currently airing and we don't have cable). Watching the show, with all the angels and demons and omens and horsemen of the apocalypse, it seemed, from my knowledge, like they'd really done a lot of research into actual Christian mythology while putting the show together. Emi confirmed this, having done a lot of research herself for last years NaNoWriMo novel (a story with the working title of Soul, about the fight between heaven and hell, though not between good and evil...).
|Sam & Dean Winchester, heroes of Supernatural.|
They even used a couple of quotes in the show that we were pretty sure were actually from Revelation. So, our interest piqued by the show, we pulled out Emi's bible (the story of which is mentioned here), and started reading The Book of Revelation. Man, is that one trippy story. But very interesting (and Emi is very good at reading dramatically aloud)! As well as being entertaining, it says a lot about the culture of the time.
Going back to the show, in all that apocalypsey stuff found in Supernatural, there are a LOT of demons, and the Winchester boys (main characters) are busy exorcising them and throwing around holy water left right and center.
So Emi did the logical thing in this situation: she memorized the entire most commonly used Latin exorcism found on the show. She also translated it, and we discovered that it definitely isn't bullshit Latin, but actually makes sense (there's lots about unclean spirits and Satan). She also translated the exorcism used in an episode of Angel (another favorite show... Are you sensing a theme here?). And with all that translating and memorizing of Latin, my very good-with-languages sister started telling me how interesting the grammar structure is, and how there isn't any punctuation as we know it. She recognizes multiple words already, and was talking about the various Latin roots of multiple English words.
Oh, and in our reading of Revelation, she also read the translation notes (because she's fascinated by translation), and was telling me a bit about how the Greek version differs from the English one...
All this from watching a TV show.
Not to mention the friend who I've been lending my Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVD's to. He's been going through it very fast, and recently while making his way through season 5, decided to carve some stakes (woodworking FTW)! He named the first one Mr. Pointy, but then his dog ate it. Anyway, he has a small collection now, and gave one to both Emi and me. He's also learning how to draw a Devil's Trap (used to trap and immobilize demons in Supernatural), and Emi's learning how to bless holy water (I think you're supposed to be a priest to do it *properly*, but I suppose it'll work for our purposes. Besides, Sam and Dean do it all the time!). So when the supernatural apocalypse comes, you definitely want to be hanging with us!
|Any Buffy fan knows how authentic this looks!|
I think it's easy for people to feel guilty about spending their time doing something as "useless" as watching TV, and forget not only that enjoyment is worthwhile simply for enjoyments sake, but also that we're constantly making connections, and learning is ever-present.
When you let go of your preconceived ideas of what learning is and where learning comes from, a whole world opens up to you, a world in which anything can spark an interest, and where learning is truly exciting and just plain fun!
Which is why I try to keep the guilt away while happily watching, discussing, laughing over, learning from, and enjoying my favorite TV shows.